By: Becky Raspe | Columbus Jewish News | January 16, 2024
StandWithUs, an international and non-partisan pro-Israel education organization, sent a letter to The Ohio State University’s leadership on Jan. 15, questioning the Columbus-based university’s response to the Israel-Hamas war and the rising antisemitism both on campus and across the country.
The letter – signed by StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein, along with Yael Lerman, director of its Saidoff Legal Department, and Carly Gammill, director of its Center for Combating Antisemitism – was addressed to Ohio State president Walter “Ted” Carter, Jr., who became the university’s 17th president on Jan. 1; Danny Glassman, dean of students and vice president for student engagement and support; and Keesha Mitchell, associate vice president of the Office of Institutional Equity.
“Since Oct. 7, antisemitism on and around OSU’s campus has run the gamut from: antisemitic verbal taunts and threats directed at individual OSU Jewish students; antisemitic and threatening graffiti in classrooms and other university facilities; removal of posters and photos of kidnapped Israelis; and in some cases, outright physical assault of Jewish students,” StandWithUs said in a statement posted with the letter. “Thus far, OSU has grossly failed in its duty to protect Jewish and Israeli students (in) this egregious situation. This is unacceptable. StandWithUs asked for OSU to take immediate, affirmative steps to remedy the pervasively hostile climate on campus for Jews and Israelis.”
Titled “Urging Your Administration to Address Ongoing Antisemitism at Ohio State University,” the letter explores what StandWithUs believes has been an inadequate response to rising campus antisemitism following the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel and start of the war, which has “led to harassment and threats of violence towards Jewish and Israeli students on campuses across the country” and that “Ohio State University’s campus is no exception.”
Throughout the 16-page letter, which also includes photos showing antisemitic incidents and materials found on the Ohio State campus and social media, StandWithUs outlines three key points: that it believes Ohio State has “failed to adequately address anti-Jewish physical assaults”; that verbal harassment, vandalism and threats against Jewish students remain “unaddressed”; and that “antisemitic demonstrations and graffiti proliferate on campus” with Ohio State’s “complicity and inaction.”
The letter calls for administrative action, asking that university leadership “clearly and equivocally communicate” to the community that antisemitic conduct is “unlawful” and will be met with a zero-tolerance policy; that the university implement “robust enforcement” of applicable campus rules and policies, including but not limited to the Code of Student Content and University Space Rules for antisemitic harassment, demonstrations and signage on campus; that it complies with relevant state and federal laws regarding targeting individuals based on protected identity characteristics; that it implements “all measures necessary” to secure the safety of Jewish and Israeli staff; and that it provides training and education to all staff and administrators who receive complaints about antisemitism on how to identify Israeli nationality and antisemitic discrimination.
“We urge you treat these matters with the seriousness they deserve,” the letter said, noting that StandWithUs is giving Ohio State leadership until Jan. 26 to respond.
Benjamin Johnson, assistant vice president of media and public relations at Ohio State, told the CJN in a Jan. 16 email that the university received the letter and intends to respond by the deadline. He also deferred to the university’s “Key Issues for Public Affairs” page, omc.osu.edu/key-issues, for further information on how the university has been supporting students during the Israel-Hamas war. The page includes the university’s response to campus antisemitism, which was updated as recently as Dec. 1, 2023.
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